I am the last Foreign Teacher (out of those sent to Shenzhen) to start teaching. As such, my evenings and weekends have been filled with horror stories about the children – they don’t understand anything, they are so loud, they throw things at you, they climb on the furniture and each other whilst you are teaching. This put the fear of God in me and so the build-up to my first class was tense.
However, bar the grade 2 classes which are more like being a ring master at an awful circus, there was nothing to worry about. All of my 17 classes have at least 50 students which, once you are in front of them, isn’t really intimidating. They were all surprisingly really eager and interested to know where this stranger had come from. I hope this doesn’t fade with time.
I showed a PowerPoint presentation of the UK to chants of ‘meiguo meiguo! (USA), during which I desperately tried to convince them that black people don’t only come from two locations: a. America or b. Africa. It took 2 slides of different maps of the UK, several rounds of class chorus and a game of ‘Can you find..’ for the ‘meiguo’ chanting to die down to the occasional heckle from the die hard non-believers. I could deal with that so I left them to it.
As all the children here live in flats, pictures of my detached house plus garden was greeted with loud ‘WOOOOOW!!!!!!!!!’, ‘TEACHER…SO BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!’, ‘SO BIG!’ and, in one class a round of applause (I kid you not!).
One of the standard day one TEFL exercises is to get students to create name cards for themselves. Once they invariably understood this concept I was treated to a host of interesting names. Here is a pick of the best: a girl in grade 3 who has chosen the name Gavin, a boy called Wendy, and one of my four Friday classes which consists of Ice Cream, Hong Kong International Airport (or HKK for short), Mr Lee, and UFO all in one class. Even when the lesson is a disaster, at least I will start the weekend amused every time.
At the end of the week, I came into the office to find a big tin of Mooncakes on my desk – these are round cakes that have a thick gooey coating on the outside, a dense sponge-like texture in the middle and a solid centre made from anything ranging from chocolate to lotus-flower seeds, that are given to loved ones to celebrate mid-autumn day which is when the Moon is (apparently, but not according to Physicists) at its largest. I asked my contact teacher whose they were and she explained that a little boy in one of the classes I taught rushed up to her at the end of the class to ask whether I would be there tomorrow because he wished to bring me a gift of Mooncakes. A tin of these isn’t the cheapest thing so this kid must have spent at least a week’s worth of pocket money on this! As you can see, teachers are more highly respected which isn’t really the case at home. Luckily for him, I have no qualms with favouritism.